Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling announced Tuesday that “after a great deal of consideration I have decided that I will not be an Independent candidate for Governor this year.”
In November, the two-term lieutenant governor gave up his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, but declined to endorse the other major Republican candidate in the race, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and instead began flirting with a possible independent bid.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, a former top adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton who’s making a second run for Virginia governor, is his party’s presumptive nominee.
Bolling said fundraising was a major factor in his decision not to launch an independent bid.
“To run a winning campaign I would have needed to raise at least $10-$15M. That’s a very difficult thing to do without the resources of a major political party and national donors at your disposal,” said Bolling in his statement. “Based on my discussions with key donors over the past three weeks, I was confident I could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but I was not confident I could raise enough money to run a winning campaign.”
Bolling said that running as an independent candidate would have required him to sever his longstanding relationship with the GOP, which he was not willing to do. And he added that his “decision was heavily influenced by a growing dissatisfaction with the current political environment in Virginia.”
There are strained relations, to put it politely, between Bolling and Cuccinelli, a more conservative favorite of tea party activists. Bolling’s bid last year for the Republican gubernatorial nomination was backed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. But Bolling faced long odds against Cuccinelli, since the party’s nomination will be decided at a state party convention, often dominated by more conservative activists, which favored Cuccinelli, rather than a primary, which could have favored Bolling.
Bolling didn’t endorse either Republican or Democratic candidates in his statement, saying instead that “I wish Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli well as they begin their campaigns. One of these two candidates will have the responsibility of leading Virginia into the future.”
But he did seem to take a veiled swipe at Cuccinelli by adding that “our priority should be on electing a Governor who has the ability to effectively and responsibly govern our state.”
The most recent poll in the Virginia contest, conducted last month by Quinnipiac University, indicated that Bolling had the support of 13% of voters, with McAuliffe at 34% and Cuccinelli at 31%. Without Bolling in the contest, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli were deadlocked at 38%.
The Virginia gubernatorial election will be firmly in the national political spotlight this year, as Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states to hold such contests in the year after a presidential election.